Veterans rally behind candidates for 50th Congressional District

SAN DIEGO--  Dozens of military veterans gathered at the Balboa Park Veterans Museum to stand behind their candidate of choice for the 50th Congressional District.

One group, Combat Veterans for Congress, stood solidly behind embattled Republican Congressman Duncan Hunter.

"I think that we’re too quick to be judge, jury and executioner," said Marine veteran Patti Siegmann. "This is America, we're all allowed due process."

Siegmann believes all Americans should back Duncan Hunter, even those who do not reside in the 50th Congressional District.

She says Ammar Campa-Najjar's family background is questionable, as she described blood ties to terrorism and connection the Democratic candidate's paternal grandfather has to the 1972 Munich terrorist attack. This makes him a security threat, according to the Marine veteran.

"I would not want him representing the United States in any capacity,” said Siegmann. "As Marines we're taught to verify, and I’ve verified enough that I know he is not a candidate I would ever support and I’m all for Duncan Hunter."

Hunter, an Iraq and Afghanistan Marine veteran, along with wife Margaret, were indicted on charges related to the misuse of $250,000 of campaign funds for personal expenses and the filing of false campaign finance records.

Hunter has said the charges are politically motivated.

Read the indictment

“When I saw that there was a group, Combat Veterans for Congress, supporting Duncan Hunter I was blown away, like how can anybody support this guy who personally, professionally, does not keep his word,” said Navy veteran  Shawn VanDiver.

VanDiver, a Campa-Najjar supporter, says Hunter’s integrity has been in question for years, even prior to the federal indictment.

"And all these folks that showed up today, when he wraps himself in the flag and says I’m a Marine, this is what Marines stand for, that is not what Marines stand for. Marines don’t stand for taking money that people invested because they believe in your ideas and spending it on golf shorts and calling it gifts for wounded warriors,” said VanDiver.

He says the mention of Campa-Najjar’s Palestinian relatives, who died 16 years before he was born and had no influence on the candidate, is being used as a scare tactic by Combat Veterans for Congress.

Campa-Najjar’s ethnic makeup has come up often during his campaign — he’s a Palestinian-Mexican-American —and Vandiver recognizes this as a hurdle for the democratic candidate in the conservative district. However, he says Campa Najjar is unapologetic about his ethnicity. He is a different candidate than the district is used to, the Navy Veteran said.

VanDiver says at the end of the day, Campa-Najjar's ethnicity is not a liability, but an asset. He says the Democratic candidate is an American, raised by a poor, single Mexican-American mother here in San Diego and will bring integrity back to the 50th Congressional District.

"We have to have people from all walks of life around the table making good decisions and if you look at the counter protest there’s a lot of old white people. Not a lot of young people, nobody of color,” said VanDiver.

Hunter finished the June 5 primary with more than 47 percent of the vote, 30 points ahead of Campa-Najjar.